Dodgy musical preferences aside, what my dad did have was an acoustic guitar. It was a bit scuffed up and had a slight twist in the neck, but I thought it was great. As a toddler, I’d love nothing more than strumming the strings whilst he picked out the chords. It made me feel like a rockstar! Eventually, when my hands were big enough, I got a cheap guitar of my own and had lessons at school. The only problem? I wasn’t very good, lost interest, and gave it up as a bad job. Typical child.
Fast-forward a couple of years. I’d started at a new school and one of my fellow pupils wanted to put a band together. Desperate to make friends, I did what any self-respecting 14-year-old who is awful at football would do. I lied and said I could play guitar.
But what I really fancied doing was playing bass. A bass guitar has two strings less than a regular guitar so I thought it would be easier to play. And I’d always liked that you could sling it really low like Peter Hook from New Order. To me, bass players always looked like the cool one in the band – even when they played with Chris De Burgh.
As luck would have it, my younger brother – who turned out to be better than me – got the gig on guitar. Not wanting to be left out, I borrowed an old bass from the keyboard player’s dad and set about learning.
And I found that I had an affinity for it. Whilst a regular guitar had almost too many things going on, the bass guitar was about providing a solid platform that allowed the other musicians to shine. I loved the repetition and the precision. The way you could completely transform a composition by straying from the root note. I practiced until the skin literally fell off my fingers.
And then, once he could see that I was in it for the long haul, my dad bought me my first electric bass. It was a white with a pointy headstock. A proper rockstar’s guitar!
I don’t think Dad would have realised at the time, but his gift set me on a path that has made my life a load more interesting than I imagine it would have been otherwise. I’ve been in bands ever since the day I got it, played in some iconic venues (and some not so iconic ones), made friends for life with my fellow musicians and had some awesome, once-in-a-lifetime experiences as a direct consequence. I also have an ever-expanding collection of basses.
I never did make a living as a musician, but I did get a small taste of the life. And I still work in the field – albeit in music playback rather than performance. I’m very lucky that, on the odd afternoon, my job is simply sharing music I love with nice people on a terrific sound system.
So, this Father’s Day I just want to say thanks Dad – for not only buying me my first bass but putting up with all of the practice. You set me up with something that will be with me for the rest of my life. I still don’t get the Barry Manilow thing though.
Written By: Tony Stott